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Political Charter
27 April 2007

Political Charter of CADTM International adopted in Belém in January 2009


In 1989, the Bastille Appeal was launched in Paris. It invited popular movements throughout the world to unite in demanding the immediate and unconditional cancellation of the debt of the so-called developing countries. This crushing debt, along with the neo-liberal macro-economic reforms imposed on the South since the debt crisis of 1982, had led to the explosion of inequality, mass poverty, flagrant injustice and the destruction of the environment. It was in response to this appeal, and in order to fight against the overall degradation of living conditions of the majority of peoples, that the CADTM was founded in 1990. Nowadays, CADTM International is a network of some 30 active organizations in over 25 countries across four continents. Focusing on the debt and debt-related issues, the principal aim of its actions and the radical alternatives it proposes is to work towards a world based on sovereignty, solidarity and cooperation between peoples, respect for the environment, equality, social justice and peace.

Since the CADTM was founded, there have been significant changes in the international context, not least regarding the nature of indebtedness: domestic public debt has dramatically increased. From a global viewpoint, two major opposing trends can be seen to have developed internationally. On the one hand, the neo-liberal capitalist offensive, whose principal proponents are the G7, the IMF, the WB and the WTO, all of whom cater to the interests of multinationals and international financial capital, has become more widespread and entrenched. On the other hand, a counter-trend of powerful social movements against the neo-liberal offensive has been emerging since the end of the 1990s, especially in Latin America. The struggle of the international social movements has been strengthened, in the belief that “other worlds are possible”. Presidents advocating a break with neo-liberalism have been elected; initiatives to audit debt and suspend repayments on external public debt have been taken; recovery of State control over strategic sectors and natural resources has been envisaged. At the same time, neo-liberal projects such as the ALCA or resistance to imperialism in Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan have failed. How power relations will evolve between these two opposing trends largely depends on how the peoples of the world will respond to the many facets of the international crisis – financial, social, political, environmental, cultural, as well as food, energy and climate.

Political Charter

1. Public debt (external and domestic) involves a massive transfer of wealth from the peoples of the South to the creditors, while the local dominant classes skim off their commission during the transfer. Both in the Northern and Southern hemispheres, debt is a mechanism used to transfer wealth created by workers and small producers to the benefit of capitalists. Debt is used by lenders as an instrument of political and economic domination which establishes a new form of colonialism. Despite their vast natural and human resources, the people of the South are being bled dry. In most countries of the South, the amount spent each year in repayment of public debt comes to more than that spent on education, health, rural development and job creation all together. The debt relief initiatives of recent years have been a mere mockery, as the stringent conditions they come with do more harm than good to the countries which are supposed to be the “beneficiaries”.

2. The CADTM’s main objective is the immediate and unconditional cancellation of Third World debt and the abandonment of structural adjustment policies. In pursuit of this objective, here are some of the aims that CADTM International seeks to promote by its actions:
-  To disseminate information, raise awareness, and help indebted peoples to get organized and take action.
-  To set up debt audits, with citizen participation, as a preliminary to rejecting all odious and illegitimate debt.
-  For governments to make unilateral and sovereign decisions and, having declared their public debt null and void, to cease to repay it.
-  For these governments to break off agreements with the IMF and the World Bank.
-  To establish a united front of countries who cease debt repayments.
-  To gain recognition for the odious debt doctrine in international law.
-  To urge refusal of any conditions that lenders seek to impose.
-  For citizens of the countries of the South to recover assets formerly embezzled by corrupt leaders of the South, with the complicity of banks and governments.
-  For the Northern powers to pay unconditional reparations to the countries of the South in the name of historic, social and ecological debt accumulated with regard to the countries of the South.
-  For legal action to be taken against the international financial institutions.
-  In cases where bankrupt private banks have been nationalized, for the total recovery of costs from the assets of the large shareholders and directors.
-  For the World Bank, the IMF and the WTO to be replaced by democratic institutions which prioritize the fulfilment of fundamental human rights through development finance, credit and international trade.
-  For the termination of all agreements (economic, political, military, etc.) which endanger the sovereignty of peoples and perpetuate the mechanism of dependence.

3. For the CADTM, cancellation of the debt is not an end in itself. It is an essential condition – albeit insufficient – for ensuring the fulfilment of human rights. Thus it is necessary to look beyond the cancellation of public debt for the means to achieve a form of social justice that is environmentally sound. Debt is part of a system that must be combated in its entirety. Together with debt cancellation, other radical alternatives must be brought into play. These include such measures as:
-  eliminating hunger, poverty and inequality.
-  ensuring equality between men and women in all spheres of life
-  imposing a new financial discipline by re-instating strict regulation of the flow of capital and goods, taxing capital (global taxes, wealth taxes), lifting bank secrecy, and banning tax havens, speculation and usury.
-  raising the level of public development aid (this aid to be given exclusively in the form of unconditional donations) to 1% of the Gross Domestic Product of the most industrialized countries, re-naming it the “reparations and solidarity contribution” and excluding from its calculation any amounts related to debt cancellation or not serving the interests of populations in the South.
-  mobilizing resources that do not generate indebtedness.
-  implementing alternatives that free men, women and children from all forms of oppression, whether social, patriarchal, neo-colonial, racial, caste-based, political, cultural, sexual or religious.
-  implementing an ambitious environmental policy aimed at re-stabilizing the climate.
-  ensuring economic, political and food sovereignty for peoples.
-  placing a ban on the patenting of living organisms.
-  achieving demilitarization on a global scale.
-  ensuring people’s right to move and settle freely.
- affirming the superiority of human rights over commercial law, and obliging governments, international financial institutions and companies to respect the various international instruments in force, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR, 1948), the Convention on the Political Rights of Women (1952), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR, 1966), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR, 1966), the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW, 1981), the Declaration on the Right to Development (DRD, 1986), the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (1990), the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (1998) and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007).
-  ensuring people’s sovereignty over their lives and their future, which means placing natural resources in the public domain, together with the results of Research & Development, other common assets of humanity and strategic sectors of the economy.
-  abandoning a capitalist system based on the quest for maximum private profit, growth and individual advantage, with a view to building a society in which social and environmental needs are at the heart of political choices.

4. To bring about such changes and to achieve social emancipation, CADTM International believes that it is for the people themselves to rise to the challenge. What they need is not to be freed, but to free themselves. Furthermore, experience has shown that privileged minorities cannot be counted on to take responsibility for people’s well-being. As the Bastille Appeal declared in 1989: “only the solidarity of peoples will bring economic imperialism to an end. This solidarity does not mean in any circumstance that one should support those regimes which worsen the poverty of their countries, which stifle the voices and rights of peoples”. Reinforcing social movements is a priority for the CADTM. Taking an internationalist approach, it is helping to build a broad-based movement which is popular, aware, critical and mobilized. Firm in its belief that the world’s struggles for emancipation must converge, CADTM International supports all organizations and coalitions which work towards equality, social justice, the conservation of nature, and peace.

Translated by Francesca Denley, Vicki Briault and Judith Harris